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Established in 1964, UNCTAD promotes the development-friendly integration of developing countries into the world economy. UNCTAD has progressively evolved into an authoritative knowledge-based institution whose work aims to help shape current policy debates and thinking on development, with a particular focus on ensuring that domestic policies and international action are mutually supportive in bringing about sustainable development.

The organization works to fulfill this mandate by carrying out three key functions

  • It functions as a forum for intergovernmental deliberations, supported by discussions with experts and exchanges of experience, aimed at consensus building.
  • It undertakes research, policy analysis and data collection for the debates of government representatives and experts.
  • It provides technical assistance tailored to the specific requirements of developing countries, with special attention to the needs of the least developed countries and of economies in transition. When appropriate, UNCTAD cooperates with other organizations and donor countries in the delivery of technical assistance.

The Secretary-General of UNCTAD is Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi (Thailand), who took office on 1 September 2005.

In performing its functions, the secretariat works together with member Governments and interacts with organizations of the United Nations system and regional commissions, as well as with governmental institutions, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, including trade and industry associations, research institutes and universities worldwide
Areas of Work



Main Goals
  • To work as a laboratory of ideas and to provide on-the-ground assistance to help developing countries raise living standards through trade, investment, finance and technology
  • To help developing countries benefit from the globalized economy
  • To contribute to international debate on emerging issues related to developing countries and the world economy - such as the current global financial crisis - through major reports, policy briefs, and contributions to international conferences.

Main Activities

Globalization and Development Strategies
  • Identify broad trends and prospects in the world economy, such as the recent rise in "South-South" trade
  • Identify solutions to the economic development challenges of African countries
  • Analyse the effects on least developed countries of international aid and of other efforts to promote development
  • Help with the restructuring of developing-country debt

Trade in Goods and Services
  • Assist developing countries in all aspects of their trade negotiations
  • Analyse the impact of competition laws and policies on development
  • Encourage the inclusion of environmental issues, such as climate change and preservation of biodiversity, in trade and development policies

  • Examine the factors influencing commodity markets
  • Help developing country efforts to achieve sustainable commodity exportst
  • Help commodity-dependent countries diversify their economies

Investment and Enterprise Development
  • Analyse trends in foreign direct investment and their impacts on development
  • Help countries participate in international investment agreements
  • Advise governments on their investment policies through investment policy reviews, guides, and training
  • Help with the creation and nurturing of small and medium-sized enterprises
  • Help countries establish and observe international standards for accounting

Trade Logistics and Human Resource Development
  • Partner with Developing Countries to address Transport and Trade Facilitation challenges and opportunities
  • Technical assistance in Trade Facilitation reforms and Customs automation
  • Cooperation in Transit transport systems for landlocked and transit developing countries
  • Research in Maritime and Sustainable Transport
  • Legal and Regulatory Transport related issues
  • Build training networks and organize training in all areas of international trade, in particular for least developed countries

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